My main reason for visiting the Museum of the City of New Yorkwas to see the Folk City: New York and the Folk Music Revival exhibit. I told meli (yay! meli’s in NYC visiting) that I knew it would feel a bit like visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and looking at Tom Petty’s pants. And there was some of that – Odetta’s dashiki dress and guitar, Leadbelly’s guitar, an old guitar case with signatures of famous folkies, a letter from Woody Guthrie about Leadbelly. But there was music – headphones that sent you back in time to listen to Guthrie, Leadbelly, Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Peter, Paul, and Mary, and many others. There were two screens. One was Seeger giving a listen in folk music and how it changed as it moved from the country to the city and another showing how relevant the songs are today. Songs like “Goodnight Irene” or “If I Had a Hammer” performed through the years through present day. They had enough Phil Ochs to keep me happy and, of course, there was Bob Dylan. One strange moment was a screen showing a protest in Washington Square Park in the very early 1960s – the police were pushing all the young people back and the young people were dressed in their best clothes – suits and ties for the men and dresses for the women. It’s not how you imagine a Washington Square protest to look like.
We visited some of the other exhibits. Hip-Hop Revolution is mostly photos of the early days of hip-hop and its influences still felt today. Funny is listening to the middle-aged UES docent talk to a group about Jay-Z, hip-hop, and tagging.
Everything is Design: The Work of Paul Rand was very interesting. Rand created the logos for IBM, UPS, ABC, Westinghouse, and NeXT. His work was very popular in 1950s advertising and he also did the designs for a lot of movie posters and book covers. He started doing magazine covers in the 1930s. Although a lot of the designs look very much of their time, you can see how much influence his work has on today.
Activist New York I’ve written about before. It’s an interesting timeline of social activism in NYC.
Another very interesting exhibit is Saving Place: 50 Years of New York City Landmarks. I’ve always been fascinated by the story of the old Penn Station and how its destruction led to NYC finally forming a Landmarks Preservation Commission. The exhibit shows buildings that have been saved and what is being done to restore some fo them.
By Carene Lydia Lopez